Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Heating Oil! Striking It Richer

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Heating Oil! Striking It Richer

Article excerpt

From Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! flowed the 2007 film There Will Be Blood, which won two Oscars. In 1927, the year it was published, the book earned a comparable honor: banned in Boston. Rick Wartzman tells the story in Obscene in the Extreme (PublicAffairs).

When Boston police arrested a bookstore clerk for selling the novel, Sinclair was delighted. "Your book is dead, and your wife and kids can't go to the seashore this summer," he wrote in The New Yorker. "But then some good angel puts it into the head of a Boston preacher to read your book and take it to the Boston police.... Instantly the press agencies flash the name of your book to every town and village in the United States, and your publisher gets orders by telegraph from Podunk and Kalamazoo. The literary editors grab the book out of the pile they had set aside to be turned over to the secondhand dealers. …

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